Text and countertext in Rosario Ferre’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Text and countertext in Rosario Ferre’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Kathleen M. Glenn

Rosario Ferre is one of a group of angry young Puerto Rican women authors who have seized the pen and wielded it effectively. Educated on the island and the mainland, Ferre is the daughter of a former governor of Puerto Rico and by birth a member of the upper-class, conservative society she satirizes in her fiction. She has acknowledged that writing is for her a destructive as well as a constructive endeavor and that she is driven by a need for vengeance and a desire to give permanence to what hurts and to what attracts her (“Writer’s Kitchen” 215). The anger that impels much of her work is evident in her 1976 collection of stories and poems, Papeles de Pandora (Pandora’s Papers or Pandora’s Roles).(1) In Greek mythology, Pandora is identified as the first woman and is given by each of the gods some power that could bring about the ruin of man. According to certain accounts, her husband, Epimetheus, opens the vessel containing the gifts and thereby releases plagues, sorrow, and mischief upon mankind. The version that has prevailed, however, blames Pandora and her curiosity for the disaster. The first woman is thus identified as a dangerous creature having an evil nature and bent on doing evil to men. Ferre’s book tells what Molly Hite has termed the other side of the story, the alternative version that gives events a different set of emphases and values (4). Ferre has spoken of the need to rewrite “history” as it should have occurred, with Desdemona killing Othello and Ariadne deserting Theseus (“Entrevista” 90), and in Papeles de Pandora she engages in revisionary mythopoesis (see DuPlessis). The stories (papers) show not only the roles in which women are often cast but also the attempts some women make to break out of those roles.

Ferre often images her female characters as dolls (decorative, passive, powerless, without voice or will), and the English translation of Papeles de Pandora is entitled The Youngest Doll, after one of the best known of the narratives. The one that concerns me here, “Sleeping Beauty” (“La bella durmiente”) has been much discussed, but little attention has been focused upon its form and structure.(2) The story is a collage of opposing texts and countertexts that play off, rub against, and collide with one another. The resulting friction produces sparks. Discordant discourses and dissonant tones highlight conflicts. Different perspectives upon the same events throw into high relief the chasms that separate contrasting views. The structural fragmentation of the narrative and absence of dialogue underscore the lack of true communication among the characters. As Diana Velez has observed, Maria de los Angeles “has only private internal speech, the speech of dreams” (80n8). Others talk and write about her; she is reduced to silence and marginalized. The two letters she writes do not appear over her signature. The following pages examine how letters from the protagonist, the director of the convent school where she is educated, her father, and her husband clash with one another and with social columns, newspaper clippings, captions written in a photo album, a birth announcement, snatches of the protagonist’s interior monologue, and comments by an omniscient narrator. Each of the three divisions of the story–“Coppelia,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Giselle”–takes its title from a famous ballet, a nonverbal text that draws inspiration from a written one: E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “The Sand-Man,” Charles Perrault’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” and Heinrich Heine’s De l’Allemagne. In 1987 Ferre commented on her ambivalence with respect to classical music, stating that while she recognized the beauty of compositions by Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt–all men–she resented the fact that she was expected to listen silently, respectfully, to the old masters without being allowed to respond to what they were saying (“Una conciencia musical” 8-9). The role of passive, worshipful listener was alien to her. Equally alien, in all likelihood, was the role imposed by classical ballets, based upon male-authored librettos and music, traditionally choreographed by men and with male-designed sets and costumes. Ferre’s protagonist improvises her own choreography, to the surprise and even consternation of certain members of her community.

Ronald Mendez-Clark has pointed out the frequency with which Ferre caricatures various types of discourse in her stories and poems, laying bare the social, cultural, and literary practices that underlie these discourses and the ways in which they (re)present–and misrepresent–women (121-22). Such exposure is essential to the destructive-constructive enterprise in which Ferre is engaged. Examples of exposure and self-exposure abound in epistolary fiction. The male protagonist of Miguel Delibes’s Cartas de amor de un sexagenario voluptuoso (Love Letters from a Voluptuous Sexagenarian, 1983) unwittingly reveals himself to be an unprincipled social climber, self-centered hypocrite, and satyr. The main character of Javier Tomeo’s El cazador de leones (The Lion Hunter, 1987) bares soul and body in a telephonic novel (one of the modern variants of the epistolary) that degenerates into an obscene phone call that is an assault upon its female listener. Paloma Diaz-Mas in “El viaje de Lord Aston-Howard” (“Lord Aston-Howard’s Journey”), a chapter from El sueno de Venecia (The Dream of Venice, 1992), utilizes letters to expose the superciliousness, prejudice, duplicity, and dishonesty of a supposedly civilized English gentleman. Ferre too, capitalizes upon the possibilities for self-exposure that epistolary fiction affords, and several of her letter writers paint devastating portraits of themselves as well as of the social group or institution to which they belong. Janet Altman has demonstrated in Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form how the formal properties of epistles create meaning. The distribution and length of the letters written by different correspondents, their dates, and their juxtaposition communicate information, and the interplay between contiguous missives can be revealing. Epistolary texts tend to foreground acts of reading and rereading, and Altman stresses the importance of the internal reader (Genette’s intradiegetic narratee) in shaping these narratives. Letters, after all, are customarily written to a specific person the writer wishes to influence in some way. We, the external readers (extradiegetic narratees), read from at least three points of view: that of the intended or actual recipient, that of the writer, and our own (Altman 111). Epistolary discourse, notes Altman, is marked by hiatuses of all sorts: “time lags between event and recording, between message transmission and reception; spatial separation between writer and addressee; blank spaces and lacunae in the manuscript” (140). These gaps serve to awaken our curiosity, stimulate our desire, and impel our acts of interpretation. Desire plays a crucial role in letter fiction, which often presents histories of rejection, betrayal, and abandonment, and which casts us in the role of voyeurs who peer through keyholes, listen behind doors, and read letters that, according to the conventions of the genre, are not intended for our eyes but instead form part of a private correspondence dealing with private affairs.

Catalan writer Merce Rodoreda has emphasized the question of language and voice in her fiction. Characters who have no one with whom to speak, no one who will listen to them, at times turn to writing letters in order to make themselves heard, as does the protagonist of “Una carta” (“A Letter”). Rodoreda’s strategy of giving marginalized figures–women, the elderly, the uneducated or mentally unbalanced–a literary voice and allowing them to speak out has a parallel in the introductory section of Ferre’s “Sleeping Beauty.”(3) The story begins with two intriguing letters addressed to “Dear Don Felisberto” (Don is a courtesy title used with Christian names in Spanish) by “a friend and admirer.” The writer identifies herself as a manicurist who works in a beauty parlor located on the lower level of a fleabag hotel, and her letters are purportedly motivated by concern for the reputation of the business tycoon and his ballerina wife. The latter, wearing dark glasses and a scarf over her hair, is surreptitiously visiting a room in the hotel. The writer, echoing a centuries-old theme–woman’s honor is easily besmirched, and any slip on her part dishonors the man responsible for her, be he father, brother, or husband–reminds Don Felisberto that “A lady’s reputation is like a polished mirror; it will smudge at the lightest touch. A lady mustn’t simply be respectable, she must, above all, appear to be so” (89; emphasis added). The second letter adds information about the time of the trysts as well as the room number and name of the hotel, the Elysium.(4) Each letter is followed by brief comments by an omniscient narrator that allow us to identify the writer as the ballerina wife. As Altman affirms, “Addressee-consciousness informs the act of writing” (111), and the style of the 21 and 29 May 1973 letters is designed to produce certain effects upon their intended recipient. He must be led to believe that his wife is not only having an affair but is doing so with a man who is far beneath her socially. The references to reputation are aimed at Felisberto’s concern with public opinion and his own honor (any red-blooded man should be able to satisfy and control his wife), and the writer anticipates his reactions, such as his turning the envelope over to see if there is a return address and trying to track down his anonymous “friend and admirer,” who in the second note announces that she has quit her job and thus cannot be found. The writer’s use of a pencil and her poor handwriting (she uses her left hand to scrawl the address) are extraverbal signs that reinforce the impression that she is a woman of little education. Letters are frequently tools for seduction, but in this instance the two false letters are intended to seduce (lead astray) in a special way. Why, we may well ask, would a wife want her husband to believe she is deceiving him with another man? Is she in fact doing so? How many layers of deception are at play here? The questions raised whet our appetite and propel us into the main body of the narrative.

Part I, “Coppelia,” opens with a social column from El Mundo (The World) of San Juan, dated 6 April 1971. The name of the newspaper is somewhat ironic in that the world portrayed in the column is that of a very limited and restricted social circle; it is less mundo than mundillo. (The diminutive -illo communicates smallness.) The gushing columnist reports on the “marvelous” performance “by our very own Pavlova Dance Troupe” of the ballet by the “famous” composer Leo Delibes. The “soiree” attended by the “creme de la creme,” is proof that the cultural life of the “Beautiful People” (the “BPs”) is reaching “unsuspected heights” (91). The hyperbolic language, sprinkling of French words, and pretentious title of the local dance company speak eloquently of the superficiality and smugness of the island’s elite. Over half the column is devoted to a description of the BPs who grace this benefit performance for charitable causes supported by CARE. (The organization’s name seems very out of place in this context.) The concern with appearances that was reflected in the introductory letters comes to the fore now in detailed descriptions of the attire of the elegant clotheshorses in attendance. Elizabeth Fernandez, we are told, “wore one of Fernando Pena’s exquisite new models, done in sun-yellow chiffon with tiny feathers, which made a striking contrast with her dark hair” (91). The women are presented as belonging to their husbands. The columnist speaks of Robert Martinez and his Mary, George Ramirez and his Marta, Jorge Rubinstein and his Chiqui, Johnny Paris and his Florence. The women have no identity of their own and even their names are not Hispanic but Anglo (more chic, assuredly) or nicknames (Norat 19). Hollywood actresses are the cultural models for these peacocks. The guest star for the evening is Liza Minnelli, and mention is made of Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor.

The gossipy writer eventually gets around to commenting on the ballet and its star, Maria de los Angeles Fernandez, daughter of Don Fabiano and his Elizabeth. One of the highlights of the ballet is Swanilda’s performance as the mechanical doll Coppelia. It is at this juncture that Maria de los Angeles makes a spectacle of herself, a thing no respectable woman should ever do:

[She] began to spin madly across the room. It seems she was improvising,

and her act didn’t fall in with her role at all. Finally, she

sprang into a monumental jete, which left the audience breathless. She

leapt over the orchestra pit and pirouetted down the carpeted aisle.

Flinging open the theater doors, she disappeared down the street

like a twirling asterisk. (92)

The passage is a revealing one, with its depiction of a young girl who refuses to follow an imposed script, rebels against her role as it has been written-choreographed, and makes a mad bid for freedom, leaping over barriers and throwing open doors. The idea that her rebellion and flight are doomed to failure is suggested by the comment that she “later returned to the stage, and danced marvelously the rest of the evening” (92). Women who don’t know their place, or who refuse to keep it, are often driven to madness and/or suicide, and the same fate will befall Maria de los Angeles. This column, which is a biting portrayal of the frivolity and inauthenticity of island society, the machismo of its guys and the empty-headedness of their dolls, sets the tone for the remainder of Part I.

It consists of four letters, the first of which is framed by two fragments of the interior monologue of Maria de los Angeles. The first fragment introduces her double, Carmen Merengue, the trapeze artist and tightrope walker who was Don Fabiano’s lover.(5) Carmen is a popular Hispanic name that for opera lovers and moviegoers, in particular, evokes images of passionate, free-spirited gypsies.(6) Merengue designates both a Caribbean dance rhythm and a culinary concoction (meringue). Carmen, this Latin dish, the flying knife, the human boomerang, the female firecracker, with meteorite-red hair” (92) is the antithesis of the convent-educated Maria de los Angeles who, if her name is any indication, should be virginal and angelic. One is a “bad girl” circus performer, the other is a society “good girl”; one is Don Fabiano’s mistress, the other is his daughter. But like the two Isabels of “When Women Love Men” (“Cuando las mujeres quieren a los hombres”), Carmen and Maria de los Angeles have much in common, including a passion for dance, literal or figurative balancing acts, and their status as victims of patriarchy. Carmen, shut in and shut up in the tiny room her sugar daddy rents for her, cannot bear her confinement and runs back to the circus. Maria de los Angeles, whose existence is comparably circumscribed, also tries to break out of the prison in which she is confined. The obstacles that stand in her way are more difficult to overcome, as the letters of Part I demonstrate.

The Mother Superior of the Academy of the Sacred Heart writes to Don Fabiano on 9 and 17 April 1971, and he answers on 14 and 27 April. The two powerful figures, representatives of Church and patriarchal family plus State (Don Fabiano is mayor of San Juan), engage in a sparring match in which the stakes are high: the soul of Maria de los Angeles and the fortune she will inherit. Although one of the combatants employs the language of religion and the other that of big business, the two are remarkably similar in their determination and are well matched. The initial letter is motivated by the shocking publicity about the girl’s performance in Coppelia and the Mother Superior’s fears with respect to the dangers to body and soul that lie in wait for those who seek fame in what she calls “the world of entertainment” (93), not “the world of art.” She obviously does not want to offend the man who is the main benefactor of the convent and so is quick to express gratitude for his recent donation of a 90-gallon water heater that has made life more pleasant for nuns and live-in students alike. Using the old carrot-and-stick technique, she writes that Don Fabiano’s daughter was to receive the Academy’s coveted Sacred Medallion at graduation time but, regretfully, she will be expelled from the school unless she abandons the Pavlova Troupe. Don Fabiano promptly responds with the information that he has withdrawn his daughter from the dance company. He then proceeds to issue his own warning. He and his wife, unfortunately, have not been blessed with a son and so Maria, his only child, is his sole heir. As he pointedly remarks, Mother Superior can certainly appreciate his desire to protect his fortune, for she is responsible for watching over the considerable assets of the Church. If Don Fabiano’s daughter were pressured into taking the veil, he would have to remove her from the academy and send her to the mainland to study. He then holds out his own carrot, promising that as long as Maria thrives under the protection of Reverend Mother, the convent will lack for nothing. Round one ends in a draw. The gloves begin to come off in round two.

Epistolary openings and closings reveal much about the relationship between writer and addressee (Altman 146). They signal the degree of formality or informality, of coolness or warmth, that exists between correspondents, and changes in salutations or closing phrases alert us to changes in the relationship itself. The tone of the 17 and 27 April letters is decidedly cool. The “Dear Don Fabiano” of the first missive has become “Dear Mr. Fernandez,” and Reverend Mother signs off not “Cordially” but “Respectfully.” In her second epistle she rebukes Mr. Fernandez for putting worldly concerns, such as the fate of his distilleries, above a calling from God and piously reminds him that the good Lord has put us here on earth only on loan. She delivers a final punch: “It would seem that the name you yourselves gave your daughter is a sure sign that Divine Providence has been on our side since the child was born” (98). The words “on our side” underscore the idea of rivalry that permeates this exchange of letters. The correspondents are like two boxers fighting for a prize or businessmen bidding for the same piece of property (Maria de los Angeles). Don Fabiano’s note with the news that his daughter fell into a coma upon being told that she could no longer dance, sets the scene of Part II.

In its opening paragraphs, the story of Sleeping Beauty, with its celebration of the passive female who waits to be awakened by a kiss from a prince, is filtered through the mind of Maria de los Angeles and (con)fused with the film The Red Shoes, which tells of obsessive dancing.(7) Third and first person alternate:

. . . she thought she’d make a tour of the castle, . . . she’d never done

that before because something was forbidden and she couldn’t remember

what, she went through the hallway taking tiny steps tippytoes in tiny

slippers, . . . like Moira Shearer on tippytoes tapping the floor, . . .

DANCE! that’s what was forbidden! Felisberto draws his face close to

mine, be kisses my check, is it you, my prince, my love, the one I’ve

always dreamt of? . . . wake up my love, you’ll be able to dance all you

want, the hundred years are up. . . . (100-01)

The language (tiny steps, tippytoes, tiny slippers) indicates how Maria de los Angeles has been infantilized, and the passage reflects her internalization of fairy tales and ballet plots and the romanticized vision of the world they project, a vision that is far removed from real fife. Her father is more clear-eyed. In the next letter, dated 29 April 1971 and addressed to the Mother Superior, he gives a straightforward account of how his daughter recovered from her coma and was awakened by a kiss from the young man she had been seeing on the sly. Although Felisberto Ortiz is from a humble background, he is sensible and the two are to wed. One hundred years of deep sleep have been modified to ten days of coma and intravenous feeding. The King, Queen, and Prince have been reduced to the less than regal figures of Dan Fabiano, his Elizabeth, and Felisberto. Life, it seems, does not live up to its fictionalized billing. Nor does it always provide “and they lived happily ever after” endings.

The rest of Part II focuses on what is to be the wedding of the year and rounds out the incisive portrait of island society and the mentality of its more prominent members. The 20 January 1972 social column from El Mundo is as effusive as the earlier one. The writer gushes about Felisberto, a promising Young Urban Professional with a PhD from Boston University and a position in the local branch of Kidder and Peabody, as well as about the generosity of Don Fabiano, who has donated a Frigid Icing air-conditioning system to the Academy of the Sacred Heart so that “the BPs will be able to enjoy the glitter of our Holy Mother Church wrapped in a delightful Connecticut chill” (103). She also announces the forming of a new group of BPs, known as the SAPs (Super Adorable People). Once again the satire is savage, the language is hyperbolic, and the United States is viewed as the source of most things good, be they brokerage houses, degrees in marketing, or cooling units. Newspaper clippings pasted by Elizabeth in her daughter’s wedding album and captions written beneath the photos of the ceremony complete the portrait. The heading “For my Darling Daughter, so as to Herald Her Entry into the Enchanted World of Brides” (103; emphasis added) echoes the lexicon of fairy tales. The first clipping suggests an oh-so-cute idea for a shower gift: a length of clothesline to which pastel-colored unmentionables have been pinned, all done up in Saran Wrap and decorated with artificial flowers. The second tells what brands of fine china, silver and crystal should adorn a bride’s table (Limoges and Baccarat are always in good taste), and the third is a saccharine little piece about the virtues of a Christian, self-sacrificing wife and mother. The photo caption “Married at last! A dream come true!” (105) suffices as an example of the fatuous phrases Elizabeth has preserved for posterity in her daughter’s album. After we read these items, we can well understand the desire of Maria de los Angeles to escape from this milieu.

The new bride’s fears surface in the interior monologue that initiates the third act of the drama. Her point of reference is now Giselle and, as was the case with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, she identifies with the tragic heroine of ,he ballet:

. . . she suspects be wasn’t a simple peasant, as he had told her, but was

going to turn into a Prince with vested interests at any moment, . . . Loys

always succeeds in his objectives and he’s not about to let Giselle get

away from him, . . . but no, Giselle is mistaken, Loys truly loves her be

won’t get her pregnant, . . . she knows its too late, there’s no escape now,

she feels Felisberto’s band pressing her elbow, marching her down the

center of the aisle. (106-07)

The 25 February 1972 El Mundo review of the “fabulous” wedding and reception treats us to a description of the white silk carpet, imported from Thailand, that lined the chapel’s main aisle and the 3,000 orchids flown in from Venezuela and placed in rock-crystal vases imported from Ireland. Despite the writer’s praise of the “simplicity” of the affair, it reeks of ostentation. Anything imported, it would appear, is superior to Puerto Rican goods. The fitting climax to the extravaganza is the coy announcement of the birth of a baby boy on 5 November 1972: “HELLO! I ARRIVED TODAY” (108). The remaining letters all comment in some fashion on the supposedly blessed event. Reverend Mother Martinez, on 7 December 1972, congratulates Don Fabiano on the birth of his grandson and looks forward to receiving an invitation to the christening. The little cherub, after all, must not be condemned to limbo. Six days later the new grandfather replies with the shocking news that Maria de los Angeles has decided not to baptize her son. The ever-practical Don Fabiano is particularly disturbed because these “social events” (he does not say “religious events”) are good for business and strengthen bonds of personal loyalty. Reverend Mother promptly fires off a letter to Maria de los Angeles, in which she surmises that the new bride may be unhappy in her marriage, preaches resignation and self-sacrifice, not self-fulfillment, and reminds the young woman that it is her duty to devote herself to the baby sent to her by God and to put aside her world of imaginary princes and princesses. On 20 December 1973, Felisberto writes, but does not mail, a lengthy epistle to his father-in-law, and the last pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.

We discover that before the marriage, Felisberto promised Maria de los Angeles that she could continue her career as a dancer, without realizing that implicit in this commitment was the understanding they would never have children. After the baby was born–and in the English version of the story Felisberto glosses over the “detail” of his having forcibly impregnated his wife (see note 3)–things went reasonably well until a circus came to town and Maria de los Angeles saw a redheaded trapeze artist perform. Since then his wife has been “strangely absent” (114) and, to make matters worse, Felisberto has received two anonymous notes, scrawled in pencil. He plans to find out what is going on. The scene switches to room 7B of the Hotel Elysium where a naked Maria de los Angeles, sporting meteorite-red hair and fused with her double Carmen, practices on a tightrope while the man she has picked up sleeps soundly. The door of the room flies open and–the story cuts to Don Fabiano’s final letter to Reverend Mother, dated 25 April 1974. It presents the official, sanitized version of what transpired in the Elysium, speaking of an unfortunate accident in which Felisberto burst in on his wife and her choreographer (innocently preparing a new dance routine), misinterpreted the situation, accidentally shot his wife, and then fell, fracturing his skull. What a neurotic, ambitious scoundrel that Felisberto was, and thank the good Lord that in his infinite mercy he has left Fabiano a grandson! Reverend Mother is, of course, invited to the christening, and she can rest assured that in the future the convent will want for nothing. Everything, it seems, has returned to normal. Fabiano’s remark that the dead Maria de los Angeles, buried in her Jay Thorpe bridal gown, looked as if she were sleeping, “performing for the last time the role of Sleeping Beauty” (118), implies that his daughter, in death, has returned to the patriarchal fold and the role for which she, a female, was best suited. His picture of the beautiful, serene bride of Christ, with “her [wedding] veil billowing around her face like a cloud bank” (117) is undercut by the concluding section of interior monologue, which is a tortured jumble of partially formulated thoughts, echoes of false promises, prohibitions, and pious platitudes, and images of Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, and Carmen Merengue.

It is apparent that neither of the two men in the life of Maria de los Angeles ever comprehends why she is not content to follow the rules laid down by society, stick to prescribed roles, and be the stereotypical dutiful wife and mother. Don Fabiano notes with more than a touch of resentment that his daughter “was a stubborn child [and] never thought of the suffering she was inflicting upon us” (118), and Felisberto acknowledges his need for advice on how “to handle” his wife and “lead her down the right path” (112), as if she were a mare. Reverend Mother Martinez, a powerful and therefore masculine figure who incessantly preaches self-sacrifice and resignation for others, is no more understanding. And Don Fabiano’s Elizabeth, a shadow without voice or influence, is of no account. By moving into public space and making a spectacle of herself, Maria de los Angeles provokes the opposition of all the powers that be. She is what Jean Franco has called a “self-destructing heroine.” Her rebellion against patriarchal institutions and texts and her struggle to improvise new roles does not–cannot–go unpunished. It is significant that the only story she is free to script is that of her own death, and even that script is rewritten by her father. Although he and those Eke him appear to have emerged victorious from the battle of text and countertext that is waged in the pages of “Sleeping Beauty,” it is the final, incomplete thought of the victim that lingers in our mind: “neither resigned nor content nor” (119). Ferre gives Maria de los Angeles the last, albeit unspoken, word.

Epistles and documents, as well as cultural, social, balletic, and literary (inter)texts project a clear vision of what women “should” be: frivolous, ornamental, obedient dolls. Ferre counters this vision by juxtaposing opposing texts, producing tonal dissonance, presenting different versions of events, fragmenting the narrative, and portraying an unruly young woman who attempts a perilous balancing act. The story of that attempt serves to indict those who would impose confining roles upon a modern-day Pandora and to vindicate her resistance. (1) Anger, as Ferre declares, has driven many women writers (Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters) to write. Her observation about “the art of dissembling anger, of refining the foil of the tongue to the point that it can more accurately pierce the reader’s heart” (“How I Wrote” 147) is applicable to “Sleeping Beauty.”

(2) See, for example, Apter-Cragnolino, Jimenez, Netchinsky, Norat, and Velez.

(3) I have used the 1991 translation by Ferre and Diana Velez because it is also a rewriting and presumably reflects the author’s rethinking of certain elements of the story. In the Spanish original, the introductory letters are dated 28 September and 5 October 1972, before the baby is born, and the one letter written by Felisberto, dated 30 May 1973, mentions his having received the day before the second of two anonymous letters. In the translation Ferre changes the dates of the introductory correspondence to 21 and 29 May 1973. It makes sense for these letters to have been written months after the baby’s birth, when the magnitude of Felisberto’s betrayal is evident. The translation contains additional modifications, such as the use of a variety of typefaces to discriminate among the different discourses, the toning down of the description of the “madness” of Maria de los Angeles during her performance of Coppelia, and the omission of the section of Felisberto’s letter where, in effect, he confessed to having raped his wife–hardly the type of thing you would tell your father-in-law.

(4) This last detail is a nice touch on Ferre’s part, inasmuch as in Greek mythology Elysium was the dwelling place of the virtuous after death.

(5) The importance of doubling in Ferre’s work has been much studied, especially in connection with “When Women Love Men” and “The Youngest Doll.” See, for example, Lagos-Pope, Lopez, and Fernandez Olmos.

(6) The Carlos Saura-Antonio Gades ballet version of Carmen dates from 1983, seven years after the publication of Ferre’s story. (7) The 1948 film is based on one Andersen’s fairy tales, yet another male-authored script.


Altman, Janet Gurkin. Epistolarity. Approaches to a Form. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1982.

Apter-Cragnolino, Aida. “El cuento de hadas y la Bildungsroman: Modelo y subversion en `La bella durmiente de Rosario Ferre.'” Chasqui 20.2 (1991): 3-9.

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. Writing beyond the Ending. Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985.

Fernandez Olmos, Margarite. “From a Woman’s Perspective: The Short Stories of Rosario Ferre and Ana Lydia Vega.” Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America: Introductory Essays, ed. Doris Meyer and Margarite Fernandez Olmos. Brooklyn: Brooklyn College P, 1983. 78-90.

Ferre Rosario. “Una conciencia musical.” La escritora hispanica. Ed. Nora Erro-Orthmann and Juan Cruz Mendizabal. Miami: Ed. Universal, 1990. 7-15.

–. “Entrevista con Rosario Ferre Historias intimas: Conversaciones con diez escritoras latinoamericanas. With Magdalena Garcia Pinto. Hanover, New Hampshire: Ed. del Norte, 1988. 69-96.

–. “How I Wrote `When Women Love Men.'” The Youngest Doll. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1991. 147-51.

–. Papeles de Pandora. 2nd ed. Mexico: Joaquin Mortiz, 1979.

–. “Sleeping Beauty.” The Youngest Doll. 89-119.

–. “The Writer’s Kitchen.” Trans. Diana L. Velez. Lives on the Line: The Testimony of Contemporary Latin American Authors. Ed. Doris Meyer. Berkeley: U of California P, 1988. 214-27.

Franco, Jean. “Self-Destructing Heroines.” Minnesota Review 22 (1984): 105-15.

Hite, Molly. The Other Side of the Story: Structures and Strategies of Contemporary Feminist Narrative Ithaca, New York: Cornell UP, 1989.

Lagos-Pope, Maria-Ines. “Sumision y rebeldia: el doble o la representacion de la alienacion femenina en narraciones de Marta Brunet y Rosario Ferre Revista Iberoamericana 132-33 (1985): 731-49.

Lopez, Yvette. “`La muneca menor: Ceremonias y transformaciones en un cuento de Rosario Ferre Explicacion de Twos Literarios 11 (1982-83): 49-58.

Lopez, Jimenez, Ivette. “Papeles de Pandora: devastacion y ruptura.” Sin Nombre 14.1 (1983): 41-52.

Mendez-Clark, Ronald. “La pasion y la marginalidad en (de) la escritura: Rosario Ferre.” La sarten par el mango. Ed. Patricia Elena Gonzalez and Eliana Ortega. Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Huracan, 1985. 119-30.

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